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Even though Tropical Storm Allison was never upgraded to a hurricane, it came upon the U.S. with a blinding force. Heavy rains and winds ravaged southeastern Texas on June 8 and then moved to the northeast. The first storm of the 2001 Hurricane season claimed 47 lives and caused over $4 billion worth of damage. However, this event did not catch disaster recovery planners unprepared.

Comdisco Backs Customer During Houston Floods

- by Richard Magani

You would think a June storm named Allison would be a pleasant summer shower, but Tropical Storm Allison was anything but. The storm drenched the Houston area, blanketing large swaths of the city in floodwaters. Lightning and rising water combined to cause power outages across the area, sending utility crews into a frenzy trying to fix damaged transformers and other power equipment.

One Comdisco customer, a service bureau, declared a disaster after the company’s local data center lost power. Given the extent of power problems from the storm, the company was lucky:

Electricity was restored relatively quickly to its data center and the service bureau endured only a few hours of downtime. Despite the good fortune, the company kept Comdisco on standby in the event power went out a second time.

The service bureau declared after flood doors in a loading dock failed, causing the basement to flood. The floodwaters damaged power and communications equipment housed in the basement. The company did not have back-up generators.

Comdisco worked with the customer’s IT team to recover the service bureau’s AS/400 environment at Comdisco’s Carlstadt, N.J., Technology Service Center. Comdisco remained on standby for four days after the customer regained power in the data center.

“The customer made a wise choice in keeping us on standby because of the risk of losing power a second time. They needed to wait until the situation stabilized,” said Martin Goulbourn, vice president of operations, Comdisco Continuity Services. “Keeping data center systems running during a major event like this is a real high wire act, but we were ready to support customers at a moment’s notice. That gives them peace of mind.”

IBM’s Normal Recovery was IBM’s Plan
- by Patrick Corcoran

Tropical Storm Allison’s strong winds and rain caused severe flooding in Houston, Texas. IBM Business Continuity and Recovery Services were called to help one of their local customers who lost power. The company did not wish to be named. When the IBM recovery team first arrived at the disaster, floodwaters measured extremely high. Evacuation of many employees was mandated by the local safety and emergency response team. IBM stated the disaster was treated like a normal recovery situation. Standard procedures were taken for successful recovery. The IBM team provided support for Sun Microsystems and HP Equipment and no unforeseen problems arose. IBM’s client was up and running in less than twenty-four hours.

A Believer in Strohl System
-by Mark McNutt

Strohl Systems was in touch with numerous customers after Allison blew through Texas. One customer located in downtown Houston, Baker Botts L.L.P., was in close contact with Strohl long after Allison’s fury hit.

After the storm blew through on Friday evening, June 8, Management and some IT personnel of Baker Botts came in to assess damage and to keep systems up and running. Many stayed at the office both Saturday and Sunday. Baker Botts was closed Monday, June 11 not because of damage incurred but because many employees were not able to make it in to work.
Rick Drosche, IT Business Manager at Baker Botts, said that their employees’ safety was their main concern. They also ordered all personnel to remove their belongings and papers off their desks. This was to prevent anything being destroyed.

Phone availability was concluded by Drosche to have been the most cumbersome for Baker Botts.

“My home phone and wireless did not even work for awhile,” he said. “It was very difficult to contact employees and for them to contact us. We had a 1-800 line with AT&T for back-up purposes but that was down. We are now looking into a secondary number so we can hope that that won’t happen again.”
“Phones in the office were not working properly for nearly five weeks. We had crossed lines and we lost video conferencing for awhile.”
The office reopened on June 12 but only a few employees returned on that day.
“Many remained home to take care of their personal losses from the storm,” Drosche said. “Homes, including mine, were damaged.”
Drosche commented that all preventative action was induced by Strohl Systems with LDRPS and a strong BCP plan. He felt that if no plan was in place, revenue would have been lost and things would not have gone so smoothly. Consequently, no revenue was lost and no one was injured at Baker Botts. Overall, Drosche said that advanced planning proved to be a success.
“I’m a believer in these plans!” he said.

SunGard’s Double Duty
-by Judith Eckles

When the storm first hit the Houston, Texas, area, SunGard’s Crisis Management Team actively called Disaster Recovery subscribers in the Houston area. While several customers placed SunGard on “Alert,” one Houston hospital declared its data center a disaster and quickly recovered its AS/400 system through a SunGard Recovery Center.

Tropical Storm Allison moved up from the Gulf States to the Philadelphia area around June 16 and pounced North of Philadelphia in Fort Washington, PA. The storm caused sudden flooding and resulted in six fatalities in the area. One of SunGard’s customers, NCO Group Inc., a Fort Washington, PA-based collection agency that collects overdue debt for banks and other companies, had an entire floor wiped out. They declared a disaster on their office space and network on June 17. On the morning of June 18, SunGard Recovery Services had 90 of their subscriber’s employees working in their MetroCenter at the Philadelphia Recovery Center. They were expected to remain at the center for an additiona120 days. Before the storm hit, this company just two weeks before had just refinished their office space with new rugs, furniture, PCs, etc. After the flood waters subsided, mud and crude blanketed everything. NCO Group temporarily worked at SunGard’s recovery center while they sought new office space.